45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
An argument, not a biography or history,
By A Customer
This review is from: William McKinley: The American Presidents Series: The 25th President, 1897-1901 (Hardcover)
Phillips is a political commentator, not a historian or biographer. His goal with this book isn't to sketch in McKinley's life but to argue a thesis. His thesis is that McKinley was a important president, and the thing that makes him important is that he illustrates Phillips' career-making mega-theory about realignment politics. It's a campaign strategist's view of history.
Phillips doesn't seem to have consulted any primary sources at all. We get a lot of "he must have reflected" stuff, and assertions that McKinley deliberately wore a mask of conventionality, and that his blandness was a conscious strategy, etc., with no attempt to demonstrate the historical validity of any of it.
Still, there is some good stuff about Ohio's political centrality in the post-Civil War era, and a very good summary of the gold-silver debate, which was a matter of passionate interest in the 1880s and 1890s but is so baffling to modern Americans.
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Initial post: Feb 9, 2016 8:31:23 AM PST
R. J. Tierney says:
I think you've hit the nail on the head. I've read plenty of Mckinley but for those who have not, this is not a good book to start with (while most of "The American Presidents Series" is). It does read more like a thesis and the author obviously is very fond of Mckinley and, in my estimation, give him too much credit for what he would have done had he lived.
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